If you’re looking for culture in San Diego, California, chances are good you’ll find yourself at Balboa Park eventually. This 1200-acre park is home to several performing arts organizations, museums, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and an artists’ community. I only had an afternoon there–just enough time to skim the surface, but not enough to take advantage of most of what it offers. I was sorry not to see the zoo or any of their terrific museums (Air and Space, Natural History, Model Railroad), but I wasn’t there long enough to really get my money’s worth out of the admission fee. So instead, I wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying what the park offers for free.
Even so, I have to say, I was impressed with Balboa Park. And more than a little envious. I wish we had something like that where I live. Even as just a spot to hang out on a weekend afternoon, it was really appealing. There were so many things to do, and not all of them cost money. There are gardens and fountains and restaurants. Having spent so little time there, I can’t say much about it that you wouldn’t find more information about on the Balboa Park website, but I thought I’d share some of my photos from my day there.
Below, the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center serves as the backdrop for one of the park’s fountains, a popular gathering place on a hot day.
Close by the Fleet Center, you will spot a cement bench with a plaque memorializing slain San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk–the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California.
During my brief time at Balboa Park, I saw three separate wedding parties taking photos around the grounds. And who can blame them? It’s one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen, with so many terrific backdrops. One of the most beautiful–and most photographed–spots in the park is the botanical building and the lily pond complex known as “Laguna de las Flores”.
Some of the architecture in the park is simply stunning–such as the Casa del Prado, a performing arts building that is a reconstruction of a building that was part of the 1915 Pan American Exposition–an event that shaped what Balboa Park was to become and what we see today.
More lovely buildings on the other side of the lily pond.
The tall white tower you see below is jutting up from the Museum of Man.
My favorite area of the park, though, was the Spanish Village Art Center.
Here, you can watch daily demonstrations by some of the 37 artists who have studios here. If you feel like buying a very original souvenir of your trip to San Diego, you can certainly do so here. You can also take part in classes.
But you can also just take advantage of the relatively peaceful plaza at the Spanish Village. Rest for awhile and people-watch. Feast your eyes on all the bright colors around you–the buildings, the art, the colorful flowers, the painted flagstones of the plaza. Listen to live music. Take advantage of the free wifi. Ahem.
Have you spent time at Balboa Park? What was your favorite place in the park?